‘Number of arrests’ outside Steve Bannon, David Frum debate

There were “a number of arrests” during a protest in Toronto over a debate that featured by one of the masterminds of U.S. President Donald Trump’s election. 

Police said early in the evening one person had been arrested, but later said there were more, though they could not immediately clarify how many. 

A CBC News photographer captured one person, seated and facing a wall in handcuffs.

A protester is seen in handcuffs outside Roy Thomson Hall, ahead of the debate. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

No injuries were reported as hundreds of protesters descended on a downtown concert hall to voice their opposition to a debate between former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and former George W. Bush aide and speech writer David Frum.

As the attendees arrived, the crowd of protesters grew to the point where police lined two deep between them and those waiting in line to enter.

Protesters chanted, booed and jeered at those waiting in line, and held up signs with slogans such as, “refugees are welcome,” and “human rights are not up for debate.”

Police had to use pepper spray to subdue some protesters.

The dramatic scene outside the Munk Debate slowed entry to the venue. Organizer Rudyard Griffiths took to the stage to tell the few who had made it inside that the debate, which was scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m., could be delayed by up to 45 minutes. It got underway at 7:30 p.m.

Bannon debated Frum on whether populism is the future of Western politics. ​Bannon argued for the proposition; Frum against.

Police stand between patrons in line and protesters on the street at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

The strife outside the venue appeared to spill over inside, as a protester on a balcony began shouting as Bannon began his opening statement. She was escorted from the venue.

Bannon acknowledged protesters’ right to free speech, before emphatically stating that populism is “a new political revolution.” The question to be asked, he said, is what kind of populism will take root?

“It’s not a question of whether populism is on the rise and whether populism is going to be the political future,” Bannon said. “The only question before us is, is it going to be populist nationalism or populist socialism?”

He attacked what he called the “permanent political class” that was running Washington, D.C., and repeated the phrase when describing the populist movement as the time for power to shift to “the little guy.”

In response, Frum said the rise of populist politics poses “the most important, the most dangerous challenge that liberal democratic institutions have faced since the fall of communism.”

“To those who are undecided about populism’s future and whether it has something useful to offer,” Frum warned, “I’m here tonight to tell you it offers you nothing. It does not care about you, it does not respect you.”

Speaking passionately with a waver in his voice at times, Frum said populism “claims to speak for the people, but it always begins by subdividing the people.

“Populism begins by dividing the country between ‘those people’ and ‘us people.'”

Some protesters came in from Hamilton to voice opposition to the Munk Debate. (Rob Krbavac/CBC)

While the Munk Debates are a popular event for the city’s political movers and shakers, the announcement of Bannon’s participation back in September sparked an immediate backlash.

A petition opposing Bannon’s participation garnered hundreds of signatures, while earlier this week, the federal NDP called for the debate’s outright cancellation.

Hours before the debate, a consortium of groups led by No One Is Illegal, released a petition opposing the event that had some 5,000 signatures.

The group also organized the protest outside the venue that began at 5 p.m. The first protester arrived before 4:30 p.m., holding a sign reading “just say no to hate,” with a photo of Bannon beside an equal sign next to a photo of a garbage can.

Bannon has long been a lightning rod for criticism of the alt-right movement, which he gave a home to in the form of his far-right news and opinion website, Breitbart. He was also Trump’s chief strategist until he left the White House last year.

But Frum’s presence was also not without controversy over his role as a strategist and speechwriter for former U.S. president George W. Bush.

Griffiths, the chair of the Munk Debates, had defended the event, saying it’s “providing a public service by allowing their ideas to be vigorously contested and letting the public draw their own conclusions from the debate.”

“Civil and substantive public debate of the big issues of our time helps all of us better understand the challenges we face as a society and what, if anything, can be done to resolve them,” he said. 

The first protesters gathered outside Roy Thomson Hall hours before the debate. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

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Originally posted 2018-11-02 20:23:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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